Earlier today, students across campus received a notice that left some reeling: all students living in any of Concordia’s three residences will need to leave their dorms in four days due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the statement, this move was made for the safety of students living in residence, as social distancing is proving difficult to practice. This decision affects all students living at the Grey Nuns Residence downtown and the Hingston Residence and the Jesuit Residence’s at Loyola. Over 800 students are currently living in Concordia’s residences.
According to the statement, “exceptional circumstances” may prevent some students from leaving by the March 22 deadline. In this case, students are advised to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Concordia has sent The Concordian a statement regarding the residents being asked to leave.
“We are seeking to protect the health of our community both as a whole and as individuals. We are currently working to identify those to whom exceptional circumstances apply, including students unable to return to their home. Accommodations will be provided to all those who need it. This is not a decision we took lightly and we understand the stress it is causing. Social distancing measures that everyone right now is aiming for are hard to maintain in residences and this decision was taken with the well-being of students in mind.”
Aurélie Garrone, a first year international student from France who currently lives in residence is one of hundreds directly affected by the situation. The psychology major student arrived in Montreal in January to begin her degree.
“If Canadian borders close, and assuming that I get repatriated, I’m not sure when I can come back to Concordia,” said Garrone.
Garrone said she has nowhere else to go. According to her, the university sent the students in residence emails about new rules but never mentioned the possibility of being kicked out.
“I feel anxious because I don’t know what to do or where to go, and if I have to travel to France I’ll be at higher risk of contracting the virus and passing it on to my family when I arrive,” said Garrone.
According to Armand Kabanga Ciowela, a first year aerospace engineering student from Senegal, the university assured students living in the residence that they would be able to stay in their dorms until the end of the semester. He said while he understands that evacuating from the dorms is important, because self-isolation is difficult as all of the students eat at the same cafeteria and use the same bathrooms, giving them only four days is not enough.
“We have to pack up while looking for a place to go to,” said Kabanga Ciowela.
Patrick Quinn, Academic and Advocacy coordinator at the CSU, said the decision is “rushed, irresponsible and outright cruel.”
“I’m not even 100 per cent sure if this is even legal or not, it really depends on what the leases of the students say, but from my understanding this might not be covered in their lease and students might have the right to stay,” said Quinn.
Quinn continued that rather than protecting students and minimizing risk of infection, this decision makes students more vulnerable and more at risk.
“We’re listening, we’re here for you, we’re fighting for you,”said Quinn.
According to Concordia’s statement, students will be eligible for a refund, both for their rent and meal plan as of the date they leave.
For more info, https://www.concordia.ca/covid19info/students/residence.html?fbclid=IwAR3KqIthU5rYoYoCF-3tHUfPZhCUMG3Bo-qyV9CuofbQwPqRlLTTHcyAok8
As this situation is developing, this article will be updated.
For many Concordia students, the ghost stories surrounding Grey Nuns—the former convent and current downtown residence—are nothing new.
According to former Grey Nuns resident Gabby Crowley, people have claimed multiple children from the building’s daycare report having the same “imaginary friend,” a man with tattered clothing and burnt flesh.
“It was actually kind of cool,” Crowley said, “but I was never really freaked out [by the stories].”
In 2016, CBC News confirmed 50 orphans died in a fire in 1918.
Concordia professor Daniel O’Leary explained that, among the many stories about Grey Nuns, the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk is a chilling first-hand account of the convent from the 19th century.
Monk, who O’Leary described as a “non-voluntary inmate” at Grey Nuns, claimed the building hid an oubliette—a secret dungeon—containing the bodies of dead fetuses and infants from nuns who had secretly gotten pregnant.
Monk’s account might be seen as anti-Catholic propaganda, however O’Leary admitted to feeling uncomfortable being inside the building.
“It is an eerie place, and it is a common thing to see shadows and flitting figures” O’Leary said.
While I have never lived in Grey Nuns, both of my roommates have. After hearing our fair share about the supernatural, we decided to investigate.
On Oct. 26, we embarked on a slightly non-conventional investigation: a séance, complete with a talking board and a protective circle (a space that is safe from demonic entities, and cast by reciting a spell).
As we set up our protective circle, we heard eerie, operatic music echoing from a piano down the hall. Neither of my roommates remember this being a normal occurrence, but we decided it was likely nothing more than a coincidence.
For several minutes, my roommates and I waited in silence—our fingers on the board’s pointer—but nothing happened. It wasn’t until we were ready to give up that we felt the pointer glide across the board. In nearly perfect unison, we all insisted it wasn’t us moving it.
The planchette continued moving across the board, spelling out four letters: G-E-M-A. Then it stopped. Over the next 90 minutes, we seemed to have conversations with multiple entities, each one sliding to “yes” to tell us when they arrived, and “good bye” when they left. Few were as talkative as “Gema” seemed to be. When we asked her if she had been affected by the 1918 fire, she indicated no. When asked why she was here, the planchette slid from letter to letter, spelling out N-E-E-D-C-A-R-E.
Towards the end of the session, we noticed the pointer was repeatedly circling over “good-bye.” While this left us with a bad feeling in the pit of our stomachs, we continued, until the pointer began sliding manically across the board. When we asked who was with us, the pointer spelled out “Gema” again. Before we could ask another question, “Gema” began spelling out: G-E-T-A-W-A-.
Before she could finish, I quickly thanked her and told her she was released, as the board’s instructions indicated I should do. My roommates and I were fine not knowing if “Gema” had really intended to send an ominous “get away” warning.
As my roommate Hanna Buchanan explained, it’s interesting that many Grey Nuns residents are first-year students as there is something almost symbolic about spending your first year away from home in an allegedly haunted convent.
“Since Grey Nuns is essentially a place where students go to […] get out of their comfort zones, the fact that there’s this whole mythology around ghosts and the other world feels symbolic,” Buchanan said. “It’s all linked to the unknown.”
Downtown residence granted funding under Parks Canada initiative to support National Historic Sites
Concordia’s Grey Nuns Motherhouse was granted $851,000 for preventative and restorative maintenance earlier this month as part of the Parks Canada National Cost-Sharing Program for Heritage Places.
Concordia spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said the funding will be invested in measures to reduce deterioration to the 146-year-old building. Barr said planned restoration efforts include replacing the building’s masonry and thoroughly cleaning all the surfaces in the Grey Nuns Chapel.
On Oct. 12, Marc Miller, the member of Parliament for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Sœurs, made the funding announcement on behalf of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who oversees the cost-sharing program. The funding was granted after an application process in which the university outlined the need for and costs associated with restorative work. According to Parks Canada records, Grey Nuns is one of 143 National Historic Sites that are receiving funding from the cost-sharing program.
“Our government has taken a leadership role in the protection and promotion of Canada’s invaluable and irreplaceable heritage such as the Motherhouse of the Grey Nuns in Montreal,” Miller said in a public statement. “This new funding will ensure the preservation of one of Montreal’s treasured heritage sites for future generations and help foster a healthy local economy and thriving tourism industry.”
Completed in 1871, the building was originally the Motherhouse for the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, commonly known as the Grey Nuns. For decades, the Grey Nuns used the building to serve the poor and take care of community members, including in times of hardship, such as the Great Depression and the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. According to Concordia’s website, the building was officially designated a historical monument under Quebec’s Cultural Property Act in 1976.
In 2007, Concordia University purchased the building. It was renovated and refurbished before being officially opened as a campus building in September 2014. Currently, the building offers a reading room, cafeteria and daycare centre, and serves as the only residence building on the Sir George Williams campus.
According to Barr, the restoration budget and projects will be managed by the university’s facilities management department. While the current project will focus on restoring the building’s chapel, the university is planning on restoring the facade and interior of the building’s other wings in future years.
“As stewards of this historic building, the university’s goal is to ensure that minimal restoration work is required over the next 100 years,” Barr said.
First-year student organizes an initiative to create care packages for the homeless
Concordia therapeutic recreation student Marie Nadeau started an initiative to provide care packages for the homeless in Montreal, a project that she is continuing until the end of her first year.
Nadeau was inspired to start the project last Christmas due to the large number of people she saw living on the streets near her home in Concordia’s Grey Nuns residence.
By asking friends and peers in residence for help, largely through social media, Nadeau received an extensive amount of donations ranging from canned food, sweaters and coats to toothbrushes, soaps and towels, among other items.
Since Nadeau’s goal was to get as many people to donate to the homeless as possible, the generosity of her community drove her to continue the project past the initial date of delivery, March 12, and into the end of the school year.
“Since I’m from Vancouver, we don’t really experience these harsh weather conditions, so it was crazy to see how homeless people in Montreal survive the winter,” Nadeau said. “It definitely made me feel like I should do something about it.”
It was through the Grey Nuns residence Facebook group that Nadeau reached out to other students for both donations and volunteer help, and where her project proposal first received a lot of positive recognition. In fact, Theo Grebonval, also a first-year student residing in Grey Nuns, already had a similar idea.
“I wanted to collect things and donate to the homeless already, and then she proposed the idea and it was just best to do it with her,” Grebonval said. From there, a group chat was created to allow the 19 volunteers to communicate about the details, such as group meeting times and where donations would be delivered.
“One of the first things that we talked about was what should and shouldn’t be in the care packages,” Nadeau said. “Some people had some great ideas that I didn’t initially think about, like feminine hygiene products and that’s a huge thing.” Also included in the care packages were items such as granola bars, socks, toques and Band-Aids.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What would someone need the most?’” Grebonval said. “Everyone brought what they had, and we saw what we needed and wanted to put into one care package.”
However, they received so many clothing items that Nadeau decided the best thing to do was give them directly to the Old Brewery Mission. “There was also the aspect of fairness—if I was giving a sweater in one package, and I was giving a winter jacket in one package, that might be unfair,” Nadeau said.
The care packages ended up including donations from people outside of Grey Nuns, as Grebonval reached out to his hometown of Glen Rock, N.J. during reading week. “About five or six families donated some pretty big, prepaid and pre-made packages, so it was great. We had about 20 of them,” Grebonval said.
With the 20 packages organized and ready for delivery on Sunday, March 12, Nadeau along
with Grebonval and other volunteers, went out near the Concordia downtown campus, including on Ste. Catherine Street, in -17 C weather to give out as many care packages as possible. “I would tell them I had a care package for them and would tell them
briefly what was inside,” Nadeau said. “They were very thankful and appreciative of the gesture.”
However, on the day of delivery, there ended up being more packages than there were people to receive them.
“Now, each time I leave residence, I bring at least one or two care packages with me because
I’ll always see a homeless person on my walk.” Nadeau said, adding that Grebonval does the same. “It’s just a matter of every time you’re going out, don’t just think about yourself and think about others.”
Nadeau plans to continue handing out the remaining care packages along with more she will make using incoming donations for the remainder of the semester.
For those interested in donating items such as food, clothing or toiletries for future care packages, Nadeau will be accepting donations until April 14. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Some Grey Nuns residents reported police at residence on Thursday night
Concordia’s residence Grey Nuns, located on Sir George Williams downtown campus, went on lockdown as several cop cars crowded the residence.
Concordia journalism student and staff writer for The Concordian Elisa Barbier told The Concordian that officers were spotted in the halls of Grey Nuns with assault rifles and riot shields looking for an aggressive suspect.
Barbier said she asked several students around Grey Nuns about the lockdown. They reported they saw officers with dogs, officers posted on each floor and locked exits. Students were not allowed in and students were told to lock their doors for safety.
Barbier said while she was questioning students at Grey Nuns, three girls allegedly stated they were in the study room on the main floor when suddenly, an RA told them to get into the room connected to the study room. Barbier said they turned all lights off and they were told to stay low. “They stayed in there between 30 minutes to an hour,” said Barbier. “This was also confirmed by guys that actually saw the room with all the lights off.”
Concordia Grey Nuns resident Jenny Chand said she saw police with dogs walking in the garden of Grey Nuns, walking around the building. She said they were looking around for something but they left because they couldn’t find anything.
“And as I was entering the building, when they let me in, there’s about 30 cops, fully armed, they had shields,” she said. “I saw witness papers being taken inside.”
Chand said earlier that day a boy from the Grey Nuns residence was taken away in an ambulance at approximately 6 p.m. She said cops were there the rest of the day, but there was not a large quantity until approximately between 8 and 9 p.m.
Seifeldin Roushdy, political science major and Concordia Grey Nuns resident, said he was in the common room heating his food in the microwave when he saw approximately six or seven cops walk by. “One was holding a big rifle and another one was holding a shield bashing on the door of this kids [room] yelling ‘police police,’” said Roushdy. He said, however, no one was inside.
“They walked by, they saw my door was half open, they asked me if anyone came inside my room,” said Roushdy. “I said no and they went inside and searched it.” He said he asked them what was happening and the cops reportedly told them they were looking for someone. “When I asked them why and they told me it wasn’t my business,” said Roushdy.
Charlotte Maher, a Concordia Grey Nuns resident, said she saw approximately 30 police officers on the east side of third floor. She said they did not have any weapons, but they were all wearing protective vests. “They were checking bathrooms and public areas—commons room, laundry rooms,” said Maher.
She said she and some other residents were told the police were looking for someone and he was dangerous. “We were told to stay in our rooms,” said Maher.
University spokesperson Chris Mota said the incident involved a student resident. “For reasons of confidentiality we can’t discuss the specifics of the incident,” said Mota. “However, I can confirm that the incident required police intervention.”
She said the incident has since been resolved. “At no time were the residents in any danger,” said Mota.
With files from Elisa Barbier
This article has been updated with more information since publication.
The Grey Nuns residence is now officially open to students
On Sept. 15, the Grey Nuns residence, Concordia’s newest—yet oldest—building, had its grand opening.
This historical building, which dates back to the 18th century, was originally built as a convent for the Grey Nuns, a religious order founded by Marguerite D’Youville. Concordia University purchased the building back in 2007, and was able to renovate it in order to transform it into a student residence with over 600 dorms and 200 study spaces that the entire university, not just students living there, can use. The building’s beautiful chapel, for example, was converted into study spaces, with high tech tables that have electric outlets.
Concordia, with the help of Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications, did a wonderful job when renovating the building. Renovations cost $15 million. The building was modernized, but still has its original charm—from the moldings to the pews to the beautiful art. The chapel is by far the pièce de résistance, and is reminiscent of an oxford style library. (It is also a little similar to the Dawson College library, located in the former mother house of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.) Modern touches, like brightly coloured ceilings, make the building more youthful.
This project is simply wonderful for students. The building has great amenities, like a self-serve kitchen where students can cook for themselves, rooms with sinks, a huge cafeteria and amazing lounge areas which are equipped with pool tables and flat screen TVs.
There is no denying that students will have a great time in this building. Actually, maybe too great of a time. After all, this is a historical building that should be preserved. Now freshly painted and cleaned, the building is spotless. But will it stay in this state for the long term? Students, especially those living in residence, do not have the best reputation when it comes to taking care of their surroundings, whether that be bars, restaurants or their dorms. They like to party, and controlling that will not be easy.
The study spaces in the building are not at risk here. But what about the rest of the building, especially the lounges and dorm rooms?
There is also the matter of the crypt in the basement, where many sisters are buried. This part of the building is closed off to the public, but students should still remember its presence and respect the sisters that rest there.
The Grey Nuns residence is a beautiful, historical building, and having a dorm in the downtown area was a much-needed investment for the university. Let’s just hope that the students living there appreciate the historical significance of their new home, and try not to hinder its preservation.
Former convent transformed into state-of-the-art residence and study space
Concordia University’s newest student residence, meant to provide housing to almost 600 students and augment study space to over 300 more, officially opened to celebration on Monday at the former Grey Nuns convent.
The ceremony took place in the former Chapelle de l’Invention-de-la-Sainte-Croix, which has been transformed into the Reading Room. Attendees of the event included the Grey Nuns congregation and their Congregational Leader Sister Jacqueline St-Yves, Montreal City Councillor and Borough Mayor for Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace Russell Copeman, and Hélène David, the Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications and Minister Responsible for the Protection and Promotion of the French Language.
“Concordia is now offering to its students a reading room that is an impressive place of beauty, calm and serenity,” said Dr. Guylaine Beaudry, a librarian at Concordia University. “What fills me with emotion is the blend of the traditionally religious with a space devoted to study and research.”
Beaudry continued to describe the Reading Room as the “only place for students to study in silence” on campus. “[The students] talk to us, using Facebook, and on Instagram and Twitter to tell us how this reading room inspires them to study, how it makes them proud to be Concordians.”
“Allow me to express how happy we are that this house will continue its mission of welcome,” said St-Yves. “I can tell you [that when we returned], it was an unforgettable moment. Where the past, the present, and – most importantly – the future, came together.”
“This was particularly challenging project, and the turning [of] a … protected convent into a 600-bed student residence and this magnificent study space has been extremely well executed,” said Copeman.
The event also included a performance by Concordia’s Theatre department. Students scattered around the Reading Room read aloud excerpts from Marguerite d’Youville (founder of the Grey Nuns) in French, Shakespearean English, a statement of solidarity in Cree, and Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian.
“When [the performance] became a little bit cacophonous, it sounded a little bit like a meeting of the City Council of Montreal,” joked Copeman.
The building had been recognized as a historic building by the Government of Quebec, who collaborated with Concordia University and the Grey Nuns on the heritage preservation of the premises.
The acquisition of the Grey Nuns Residence makes it Concordia University’s oldest building. Certain areas, such as the crypt inside the building, will remain under the custodianship of the Grey Nuns.
In Spring 2015 an event will be held to commemorate the recognition of its historic status by the federal government.
Concordia University has a long legacy of religious collaborations. Both Loyola College and Sir George Williams University were originally founded by religious groups. The name “Concordia” is Latin for “harmony,” representing the merger of the two institutions.
140 year-old Grey Nuns building, once a convent, now ready to welcome students
The Grey Nuns building, located on Guy St, just steps away from Ste-Catherine St., is a building all Concordia students have walked in front of. Some may have noticed its beauty, tucked away behind the many trees on the lot, a building that is clearly so much older than those surrounding it. It is also Concordia’s most newly acquired, yet oldest, building.
This building – which dates back to the 1870s and was purchased by Concordia University in 2007 for $18 million – has been given a new purpose: to accommodate students. The building also has a daycare facility. Concordia has been working for years in order to renovate the building while keeping its historic presence intact. This was accomplished with the help of the Sisters and the government of Quebec. The project cost $15 million, according to The Gazette.
Renovations began after the sisters left the building, in April of last year.
A few renovations were done to the west wing in order to accommodate some students, about 245, back when the building was originally purchased.
The Concordian was able to get a glimpse into the building to check out the (almost) completed product during a media tour on Aug. 12. The tour was lead by Clarence Epstein, senior director of Urban and Cultural Affairs, and Peter Bolla, associate vice-president of Facilities Management.
The Grey Nuns building is an H-shaped with a surface measuring 375,000 square feet. The land the building on, which Concordia also owns and which once served as a very large garden, measures 8 acres.
Now that the renovations have been completed, the building can now accommodate 355 more student beds, meaning that 600 students can now live in the building.
The seemingly untouched chapel is now filled with tables and lamps, so that students can work in silence while surrounded by historical pieces of art, gorgeous high ceilings, and stain-glass windows. The chapel fits up to 240 students. Red, modern lounge chairs were added to the front of the chapel. The red accessories were chosen, according to Epstein, to connect the history of the religious coding to the university’s coding of the space. The tables even have incorporated plugs, so that students can plug in their laptops and cellphones.
“[The chapel] allows for people to learn, to grow, to transform themselves, to reflect on their work and to get some private, individual study,” Concordia President Dr. Alan Shepard said. “…It has some exquisite 19th century art on the walls, which has all been left for us by the Grey Nuns. We are certain that students will find this to be incredibly productive space, quiet reflective space. It’s in keeping with the heritage of the reflective nature of this space, originally.”
The hallway leading to the chapel is filled with beautiful photographs created several years ago by the faculty of fine arts. The faculty commissioned artists to photograph and interpret the departure of the sisters, Epstein explained. “These works have now been hung permanently in this corridor to make that connection between their legacy and the new purpose that the site has for the university,” he said.
Fourteen group rooms were created, each with a white board and tables where six people can work comfortably. Students will be able to reserve these study spaces through the library. These rooms were originally used as administrative offices for the sisters.
Another 300 study spaces were added throughout the building. The room that served as a temporary chapel before the permanent chapel was built was converted into another space for both study and fun. Tables and chairs are on both sides of the room, and leather couches are in the centre so that students can relax. There is even space in the front of the room for a stage, for special occasions or concerts. The large windows fill the room with natural light, and the colorful lighting that was added during the renovations adds a young feel to the building.
The renovations allowed the school to add some beautiful glass doors to the building, in order to separate common areas, which will be open to all students, and areas reserved to students living there. In order to enter the building, students will have to scan their student IDs. Although most of the walls remained white, a few colorful touches were added to ceiling in different parts of the building, giving the building a younger, warmer, modern touch.
The Grey Nuns building has a state-of-the-art kitchen, where the food delivered throughout campus will be produced from now on. There is also a second option for those living in dorms; a second kitchen reserved for students who wish to cook for themselves. This new plan, a first for Concordia, is called myPantry. Students can simply order their groceries through the building (the cost is included in their rent), store the items in the mini fridges in their dorm room, and cook them when they please in the common kitchen. Cooking lessons will be offered, and a nutritionist will visit to give students pointers. This kitchen even has a smoothie bar.
The dorm rooms are small but cozy, and the large windows let in a lot of natural light. All the rooms include a bed, an armoire, a chair, a desk, a mini fridge, and a sink. Some also have semi private and private bathrooms. Communal, newly renovated bathrooms are available for those without private bathrooms. The showers are unisex.
The building also has multipurpose rooms with game tables and big screen TVs, so that students can relax.
Those visiting the building were able to go to a part of the building that is not usually open to the public: the crypt in the building, where many of the Grey Nuns were buried. The crypt in not accessible to those in the building, although it is possible to see the room from outside.
Different dorm sizes (and prices) are available for students who wish to live in the Grey Nuns residence. Thirteen different room options are available, all varying in size, most of them single but some doubles, most with sinks, some semi private bathrooms (toilet and sink), and some with full showers. The least expensive single room with sink costs $720 per month, or $6,024 with tuition for the year, not including the meal plan. The most expensive room, the private room with full bathroom, costs $850 per month, or $7,111.67 with the school year, including tuition. A single room in Hingston hall costs between $525.04 per month and $684.56 per month, while single rooms in the Jesuit residence costs $831.74 per month. Both the Jesuit residence and Hingston hall are located at the Loyola Campus. The Grey Nuns building is the first to be located in Concordia’s downtown campus.
It is important to note that these prices do not include the meal plan, which costs $3,950 per year, with $125 in flex dollars.
This building was built in order to accommodate the Grey Nuns, who were founded by Marguerite d’Youville and three of her partners back in 1737. Architect Victor Bourgeau, a known and respected architect who specialized in religious building, was hired for the job. The H Shaped building has three wings, the inner outdoor area once having been reserved for gardening.
The Grey Nuns lived in the building until 2013. Originally, the nuns had planned to stay until 2022, but chose to leave early. They left most of the things in the building behind, only taking with them what was most linked to their history; wooden panels, for example, with the name of every nun to have ever lived in the building.
During the tour, Epstein recounted the day that Margaret d’Youville’s remains left the building, on a snowy day last year. Some of Concordia’s staff were invited to attend the ceremony.
“We were fortunate to be invited to the deconsecration of the chapel, where they removed the remains of Marguerite d’Youville, and officially made this space use as a profane site. and that is when the university began studies to convert it into a space for student use,” Epstein explained.
He explained that all sisters were brought in from various convents to witness Marguerite d’Youville’s final departure. The remains were brought down the aisle. Sisters lined the aisle while carrying the flowers of their namesake, marguerites.
“When the doors of the chapel opened, there was this flood of willowy light snow that kind of blew into the chapel as she was leaving. There was a limousine waiting for her and police accompaniment, to take her to the basilica for her final blessings. It was very special,” Epstain said.